All posts tagged N.T. Wright

  • Christianity vs. Biblicism


    Christianity vs. Biblicism
    Brian Zahnd

    (This is my foreword to Keith Giles’ excellent new book, Jesus Unbound.)

    As modern Christians we are children of a broken home. Five centuries ago the Western church went through a bitter divorce that divided European Christians and their heirs into estranged Catholic and Protestant families. The reality that the Renaissance church was in desperate need of reformation doesn’t change the fact that along with a reformation there also came an ugly split that divided the church’s children between a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. In the divorce settlement (to push the metaphor a bit further) Catholic Mom got a long history, a rich tradition, and a unified church, but all Protestant Dad got was the Bible. Without history, tradition, or a magisterium, the Bible had to be everything for Protestant Dad — and Protestants have made the most of it. For five hundred years Protestant scholars and theologians have led the way in biblical translation, scholarship, and interpretation, giving the Christian world such notables as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius, John Wesley, Karl Barth, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, T.F. Torrance, Walter Brueggemann, Stanley Hauerwas, Fleming Rutledge, Richard Hays, N.T. Wright, to name a few.

    But with Sola Scriptura as a defiant battle cry there always lurked the temptation to place more weight on the Bible than it could bear, or worse yet, a temptation to deify the Bible and make an idol out of it. This has become increasingly true among the more fundamentalist clergy and congregations who are suspicious of higher education and unwilling to read their Bibles with the help of biblical scholars the caliber of Brueggemann, Hays, and Wright. So while pretending to “take the Bible as it is,” the fundamentalist reads the Bible through thick lenses of cultural, linguistic, political, and theological assumptions — interpretive lenses they are unaware of wearing.
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  • It’s My Birthday and I’m an Eclectic Christian


    It’s My Birthday and I’m an Eclectic Christian
    Brian Zahnd

    Today is my birthday and the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri made me a birthday card. On the cover of the card is a cross composed of the “Five Words” (Cross, Mystery, Eclectic, Community, Revolution) that I talk about in the second chapter of Water To Wine. And since it involves the Sisters at Clyde, let me share a little bit of the Eclectic portion from the “Five Words” chapter. It’s a nice story…
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  • Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright


    Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright: A Conversation with Derek Vreeland
    Brian Zahnd

    Derek Vreeland is my friend and a fellow pastor at Word of Life. He has written a book on N.T. Wright’s latest “big book” — Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Derek’s book, Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright is a 118 page summary of Wright’s 1,700 page behemoth. Here’s what I’ve said about Derek’s book:

    With Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright Derek Vreeland has rendered us a great service. N.T. Wright is the most respected New Testament scholar of our era and his work on the theology of Paul could not be more important. But the fact remains that many are not up to the task of wading through 1,700 pages of dense scholarship. Derek Vreeland’s reader’s guide is an excellent distillation of Paul and the Faithfulness of God and thus a true gift.

    Recently I sat down to talk with Derek about this project. Here’s our conversation:

    BZ: How important is N.T. Wright to you personally and to the church at large?

    DV: Wright has become the rockstar theologian of our generation. He is as influential in our generation as C.S. Lewis or Karl Barth were in their generation. I think we can understand his wide-reaching influence in a couple of ways. He is biblical theologian grounded not in a particular theological tradition, but in the historical context of the New Testament. He wants to reconcile the divorce between theology and history. I appreciate systematic theologians who can work with the biblical texts and help construct a cohesive picture of what the biblical writers were trying to do, but sometimes our system forms too rigid of a grid and we actually miss the heart of what the biblical writers were trying to say. Wright has pledged no allegiance to one particular theological system, so his books seem to speak to people across the spectrum of Protestant traditions. He also has the rare ability to communicate effectively at both the academic level and the popular level. His academic books like Paul and the Faithfulness of God are filled with countless footnotes where he interacts with so many scholars and his popular books like Simply Christian speak on a level that the average churchgoer can understand. For me he has become my hero. His interpretation of Jesus and Paul within the context of first century Jewish world have revealed a Jesus and Paul who have everything to do with my life as a 21st century pastor.
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  • Three Books

    1887 Still Life with Three Books

    I was asked by a magazine to recommend some books. Here’s what I gave them.

    Three Books I Am Currently Recommending

    jesus-way the-doors-of-the-sea-where-was-god-in-the-tsunami-84929292 Surprised-by-Hope-1

    The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson
    There isn’t a more important pastoral voice in America than Eugene Peterson. Though he is probably best known for his translation of The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson has authored more than forty books, most of them on the theme of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the contemporary American context. Writing from nearly fifty years of pastoral experience, The Jesus Way is perhaps the best book I’ve read on how to get beyond religious cliché and cultural assumption in considering the Christ we confess and follow. I also highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s just published memoir, The Pastor.

    The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart
    David Bentley Hart is one of Christianity’s finest living theologians and apologists; he is a gifted writer as well. The Doors of Sea is an expansion of an essay that originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal in response to the tsunami that claimed a quarter of a million lives in Southeast Asia in December of 2004. In the wake of the tragic Japanese earthquake and tsunami, this little book has renewed relevance. The Doors of the Sea is the best attempt I’ve found in addressing the age old problem of reconciling the goodness of God with the reality of evil and suffering.

    Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
    I have no hesitation in asserting that N.T. Wright is the most important Christian writer, thinker, and theologian of our day. What C.S. Lewis was to a previous generation of serious Christian readers, N.T. Wright is to our generation. I’ve read nearly everything Wright has published (and he is wildly prolific!) and this is Wright at his best. Quite simply, I wish I could get every Christian to read Surprised by Hope! What is it about? It’s about the great Christian hope of resurrection and how a biblical understanding of the hope of the resurrection should inform and influence every aspect of Christian witness and mission.

    If you’re a serious Christian, do yourself a favor and read these three books.


    (The art is Still Life With Three Books by Vincent Van Gogh)

  • Ruminations from Delhi

    Peri and I are laying around in our New Delhi hotel resting up after our travels and ministry in India. We’re getting ready for the long haul back home at 1:00 AM tonight — a journey across two continents and an ocean. We’re looking forward to being back at Word of Life this weekend. We began our morning with a couple of room service cappuccinos and watching the latest episode of The Office online. Living the high life!

    Last night I started reading an Indian novel — The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize). My favorite novels are those which don’t merely tell a good story, but explore important ideas through the art of story. I suppose that’s why Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are my favorites writers — they don’t just tell stories, they grapple with big ideas. As far as I’m concerned Fyodor Dostoevsky is really a theologian disguised as the greatest novelist ever. Well, anyway, I started Desai’s novel and came across this sentence. Read more

  • Credo

    I believe.
    I believe the Bible.
    I believe in Holy Scripture inspired by God.

    By why?
    Why do I believe the Bible?

    I know very few Christians who can adequately answer this question. If they are challenged by a skeptic at work as to exactly why they believe the Bible they find themselves on uncomfortable ground; their hands break out in a sweat as they fumble for a defense. Perhaps they go home, dig out a Josh McDowell book , cram for the “test”, try to memorize a few apologetic facts, and then head back to work the next day ready to explain why they believe the Bible…based on the arguments they read and tried to memorize the night before.

    But the problem with this defense is that it is disingenuous. As true as the apologetic arguments for the veracity of Scripture may be, it is not why they believe the Bible. The truth is, they believed the Bible before they knew a single apologetic argument. I doubt that one in ten thousand Christians believes the Bible because of historical, archeological, textual, literary, philosophical evidence. They believe in the Bible for a completely different reason, though they probably have never consciously understood this reason.

    I believe the Bible because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and because I believe in the Church.

    Here’s how it works… Read more

  • Jesus and the Victory of God

    We flew back from Israel today. During the long journey home I was reading Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright. I can’t tell you how deeply this book has thrilled my soul. It’s like a diamond mine. Every page is a gem. I am now left with no doubt that Tom Wright is the most important Christian writer and theologian of our generation. And it’s quite possible that Jesus and the Victory of God is the most important book I’ve read. It will influence me significantly.
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  • Reformation

    Every few centuries Christianity must undergo a new reformation. By which I mean it must re-form itself. Re-formation is necessary to live in the tension of biblical authenticity and contemporary particularity. Re-formation is required if we are to embrace a synthesis of rootedness and relevance. Every few centuries Christianity must undergo a kind of reformational metamorphosis to regain its counterculture character.This is not something that happens often. I’m not referring to the periodic infusions of spiritual vigor or the cultural adaptations that are common to every generation. I’m speaking of something rare and seismic.

    But I will dare to state that we live in such a time. I’m emphatic about this. We are living in a time of real reformation. It will do you little good to think of it as a throwback to some historic revival from the past three hundred years. That is rejuvenation and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a real reformation. A radical rethinking of the nature of salvation and what it means to be a Christian. A radical reassessment of assumed paradigms leading to a re-formation of Christianity as we have known it.
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  • Lists

    Lists are part of my madness and my madness is a part of who I am.

    So this is a blog of lists.

    (It’s also an answer to several emailers.)

    OK, let’s go…
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